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The Rise and Demise of China's One-Child Policy with Sarah Mellors-Rodriguez

Population policy poster

In recent decades, China’s rapid economic growth has made headlines around the world. However, one area in which China’s growth has been less prodigious has been in terms of its population. This was starkly demonstrated in May 2023 when India surpassed China as the world’s most populous country. Part of the reason for this shift in global demographics can be found in a series of policy measures adopted by China’s communist rulers in 1979, measures known collectively as the “One Child Policy”.

In this episode of Talking History, Djene and Patrick speak to Dr. Mellors-Rodriguez, author of Reproductive Realities in Modern China, 1911-2021 (Cambridge University Press, 2023), about the history of the “One Child Policy”: its origins, its development, and its impact on Chinese society.

In Talking History Extra, continued at 24:30 in the audio, Djene and Patrick expand the discussion to discuss the evolution of debates pertaining to birth control, eugenics, and nationalism in China over the course of the twentieth century. They also ask Dr. Mellors for her book recommendations for those interested in learning more about modern China.

  • Evan Osnos, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2015)
  • Peter Hessler, Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory (Harper Perennial, 2011)
  • Leslie Chang, Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China (Spiegel & Grau, 2009)
Dr. Sarah Mellors-Rodriguez
Dr. Sarah Mellors-Rodriguez

Dr. Sarah Mellors-Rodriguez is an associate professor of history at Missouri State University specializing in the history of modern China as well as questions relating to gender and society. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of California and is the author of Reproductive Realities in Modern China, 1911-2021 (Cambridge University Press, 2023).

Djene Bajalan is a historian and a member of the faculty in the Department of History at Missouri State University. He was born, raised, and educated in the United Kingdom and holds a DPhil in Oriental Studies from the University of Oxford. His research focuses on the Ottoman Empire and he teaches courses on the history of the Middle East.<br/><br/>
Patrick Needham is a mechanic and fabricator with a love for History. Born in Colorado and raised in Taney County, Missouri, Pat loves the Ozarks with the zeal of a convert. Not formally trained in History, he brings an everyman touch to the show. He hopes his fellow Ozarkers find lessons and parallels in the past.